Committee to look at preparedness to deal with outbreak and possible vaccines

The standing committee on Science and Technology headed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has scheduled a meeting for July 10 to discuss the “preparedness to deal with COVID-19 and other pandemics in future”.

Mr. Ramesh confirmed that the committee will be deliberating on the vaccines for COVID-19 including the one being developed by Bharat Biotech International Limited partnering with Indian Council of Medical Research.

Earlier in the day Mr. Ramesh, reacting to ICMR DG Balram Bhargava’s letter to institutions involved in COVID vaccine trial, claiming that the vaccine will be ready by August 15, tweeted, “Even assuming extraordinary times demand super extraordinary responses, this compression of all clinical trials and violation of all protocols is unwise.”

Department of Biotechnology, Department of Scientific & Industrial Research, Principal Scientific Advisor to PM Vijay Raghavan and officials from Ministry of Science and Technology will depose during the meeting.

Mr. Ramesh said he had been trying to hold a meeting of the committee for the last three months and virtual meetings should have been allowed to ensure that the work of parliamentary panels is not halted because of the pandemic.

The government sources have been indicating the monsoon session of Parliament might be pushed to September. Mr Ramesh said the monsoon session should be held as per norm by the third week of July. Meanwhile both houses of Parliament are deliberating on various permutations to hold the session while ensuring social distancing norms are adhered to.

“Govt. does not want parliament to meet. That’s all there is to it. What happened to Modi hai to mumkin hai (is possible) in this case,” Mr. Ramesh said.

The first physical meeting of a Parliamentary Committee was held on June 30 since the budget session ended abruptly on March 23. Eleven of the 26 members of the committee on Welfare of Other Backward Classes met in Parliament premises. The next meeting of the parliamentary panel on Petroleum is scheduled for July 7.

So far at least three scheduled meetings of Parliamentary panels — Home Affairs, Information & Technology and Labour — had to be cancelled after the members quoting varying travel restrictions and quarantine norms, expressed inability to reach Delhi for the meetings.

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